|An Interview with Amy Burvall and Herb Mahelona (History for Music Lovers):
Last month, Amy Burvall and Herb Mahelona were announced as invited speakers at the E-Learn 2011 conference in Hawaii next week. I was excited since I had read about them in the Washington Post and many other places. Yesterday I got even more excited when they agreed to keynote the conference next Wednesday morning (as a late replacement for someone else).
Who are Amy Burvall and Herb Mahelona you ask? They are some of the most innovative people I have ever encountered. And I will get to meet them in 6 days. Among his many skills, Herb is choir director choir at the Kamehameha Schools Hawaii Campus. Amy is known as a leader in educational technology professional development programs at both St. Andrew's Priory (where she taught for 8 years) and Le Jardin Academy International Baccalaureate School. Amy also teachers Theory of Knowledge and World History at Le Jardin Academy. There conference talk is titled "TechnoTroubadours and Teacherpreneurs" (see their bios). Their talk is very impressive as I got a glimpse and so can you. See their prezi presentation with embedded videos. It will be great to have K-12 teachers keynote E-Learn 2011. Fortunately, they are located in Hawaii, though Herb must fly in from the big island.
Amy and Herb are known from their musical creativity with their History for Music Lovers channel in YouTube. Superfantastic stuff. I am amazed by their historical song parodies. I really like their version of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" as a way to remember the Trojan War. Another one I sing along with at least once a week is Mansa Musa (i.e., "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" by Culture Club). When you land on the History for Music Lovers homepage, you see highly creative song about the history of India, "The Mahabharata" (i.e., "Abracadabra" by the Steve Miller Band). Nearly 600,000 people have seen Amy sing about The French Revolution to "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga. I find it hard not to cry when listening to some of their oldie songs such as the Battle of Agincourt ("As Tears Go By" by Marianne Faithful).
Check their channel out; there are dozens of songs to listen to and learn world history. If someone ever asks you were e-learning can make an impact, well, this is a prime example--mashing up history and music and making it open source for kids all over the planet to listen to and learn from. How cool is that? Very cool! If only my high school such teachers. Perhaps we soon will be turning kids on to not only history but geography, biology, etc., with music.
The lyrics are highly inventive and catchy. I read somewhere that Amy has songs pop into her head when driving home from school and just has to write them down. I understand that since I sometimes experience that when on a plane or a train. Unfortunately, I cannot play music like they can. If Amy and Herb ever go on tour, I think I could listen to them all afternoon and evening at a summerfest stage in Milwaukee. They are highly talented and fun. I think we are going to get spoiled next week and want them at every e-learning conference.
Ok, I need to introduce them next week at the conference so I decided to interview them via email. With permission, below are their responses to this interview. I list Amy first since she was the one I corresponded with.
Curt Question #1. Do you see yourself in the e-learning field when you create a video?
Amy (and Herb): I think at first, not particularly. But certainly after we started posting to You-Tube and responding to fans (mostly teachers, students, and history buffs) and doing various interviews in the field, we did. There is definitely more pressure now as we work on new projects, but we still try to keep it fun and light-hearted, drawing from our own passions instead of catering to others. We’ve certainly learned a LOT about e-learning on our journey!
Curt Question #2. Did you expect to be celebrities in the e-learning space? What is this like?
Amy (and Herb): Haha no way! It’s surreal. I heard from a friend, for example, who was in a coffee shop in Oregon and heard some college kids singing our “Renaissance Man” song [i.e., "Blister in the Sun" by the Violent Femmes]. One fan wrote he was in a museum in Washington and they were playing some of our tunes in the gift shop! And when my students travel they always tell me they meet other kids who know about us. So bizarre. But what is most boggling is that it’s very rare that someone lets you know when they’ve written a blog post or article about you. We sort of have to google ourselves sometimes. And even more crazy was when I discovered one of our lyrics (fleas on rats) was an actual Twitter hashtag!
Curt Question #3. Which 2 music history videos that you created are your favorites and why?
Amy (and Herb): I really love the look and sound of “Elizabeth I”, to the Zombies’ “She’s not There”. And musically, my favorite is “Canterbury Tales”- plus nothing beats that Middle English rap segment. The way I envision “Guernica”, which is in production, might turn out to be my ultimate favorite. For Herb, I know he is most proud of “Joan of Arc”, because we also tried to parody the original White Stripes video…it took quite a lot of time and effort on his part to edit. As far as lyrics go, I think Herb’s lyrics were genius in “Chinese Dynasties” [i.e., "Mambo #5" by Lou Bega] and “Viva Roma #5” [i.e., "Vogue" by Madonna]…I prefer sticking to really specific topics, but he has a gift for synthesizing the broad topics.
Curt Question #4. What is the process like in creating a new video? Any interesting technology challenge that comes to mind?
Amy (and Herb): The biggest challenge for us is time…and now, geography, since we live on different islands. When either of us is inspired to pen lyrics, we do so, because that surge of creativity doesn’t happen all the time. I can go for months without writing a single line and then spew out 6 songs in weekend. Herb then creates the music, and we schedule a time to record. To me, recording is the most fun, and it really doesn’t take that long (maybe a half an hour for 1 song). He mixes/produces the tracks when he gets the time and then we brainstorm what the video should look like. I can never praise storyboarding enough! When we are ready to film I gather all the costume and make-up pieces and props and we head for a green screen. Herb uses a high def. camera and Adobe Premiere and After FX software. When my students make videos, they use Garageband and iMovie. The editing is the most time-consuming, but the more Herb uses the programs the better he gets. I always want to do crazy things that we probably need a Hollywood studio for, but Herb seems to make them happen. He is also a master at Flash animation, an some of our favorites (Henry VIII, Crete, Renaissance Man) are done completely in Flash.
Curt Question #5. What are your hobbies and interests?
Amy (and Herb): Herb is a classical musician at heart and plays for the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra, the University of Hawaii symphony, and the Kona Music Society. He teaches cello and piano privately, and is an experienced arranger and composer, who has even written 3 operas performed by the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus. He enjoys hiking and has been involved in Boy Scout leadership.
Amy is obsessed with anything relating to design – graphic design, interior design, fashion design, etc. – and typically is involved in some related project. Her creative outlets are singing, writing, and photography, but more recently her attention has been on the use and implications of online curation, personal branding, and social media in education. She is often called to train peers in tech integration, and enjoys presenting on the topic. More recently, her interests have drawn her to the “Gutenberg Parenthesis” theory and the work of media philosophers Marshall McLuhan, Thomas Pettitt, and Alejandro Piscitelli, as well as the “EduPunk” movement.
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Hope you enjoyed the interview. I also hope to see many of you at the conference next week. If you see me, tap me on the shoulder and say hi. See also the blog post below for the E-learn Preconference Summit at the University of Hawaii next Monday afternoon. The program was just announced and it will be worth it.
Labels: Amy Burvall, E-Learn 2011, e-learning, Herb Mahelona, History for Music Lovers, historyteachers, historyteacherz